By Melo Acuña

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) said on Thursday the proposed hubs for Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs were meant to make life convenient for their Chinese workers as well as protect them.

Andrea Domingo, head of the state-owned gaming operator, issued the statement after the Chinese embassy in Manila expressed concern the hubs would violate Chinese workers’ rights.

The embassy also said POGOs targeting Chinese clients were deemed illegal by China.

Domingo said the POGO hubs would be “self-contained communities” that would have all the basic needs of foreign workers.

The hubs will have office and residential spaces, food establishments, wellness and recreational facilities, service shops, and others.

“No need to be going to other places just for some of their needs,” she said.

Foreign employees will still be free to go anywhere they want, without any limitation on their personal rights or liberties.

“They are no longer exposed to crimes being committed against them on the streets, they are assured of good working conditions and decent living quarters and will be given their proper visas as there will also be other relevant government agencies setting up offices at the hubs,” Domingo said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Thursday Pagcor’s plan to transfer POGOs to self-contained communities or hubs was “totally missing the point.”

“What we want is for POGO operators and their employees to pay the correct taxes and not devour local jobs that are exclusively for our countrymen,” he said in a statement.

“The government may be losing an estimated P32 billion in uncollected income taxes a year from some 138,000 foreign workers in POGOs, according to the Department of Finance. Isolating these firms and workers into hubs will not bring additional revenue for the government, nor will it solve the issue of foreigners encroaching on jobs meant for Filipino citizens,” he added. (